No. 25 Illinois uses late runs to Edge Nebraska

Posted By: Sports

Courtesy: NU Media Relations

Lincoln, Neb. – A combination of defensive miscues and lack of timely hitting spoiled any chance of an upset for the Nebraska softball team in a 5-3 loss to No. 25 Illinois on Saturday in front of 1,673 fans at Bowlin Stadium.

In addition to tying a season high with four errors, Nebraska’s offense was just 3-for-18 with runners on base and 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Junior Kaylan Jablonski produced the Huskers’ only hit with a runner in scoring position in the game, a two-run single that gave Nebraska a 3-2 first-inning lead. Jablonski finished 1-for-2 with a pair of RBIs, and she also tossed a complete game in the circle, allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits.

With the loss, Nebraska fell to 19-25 on the season and 9-7 in conference play. Illinois, which won its 10th straight game, improved to 34-10 on the year and remained in second place in the Big Ten standings with a 12-2 mark in league play. Breanna Wonderly (17-9) earned a complete-game victory for the second straight game, allowing three first-inning runs before shutting the Huskers out over the final six innings.

Illinois jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. A leadoff single, a walk and a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out for Nicole Evans, who grounded a two-run single up the middle. 

Nebraska came right back with three runs in the bottom of the first. Sophomore Alyvia Simmons led off with a double before Illinois failed to record an out on a ground ball off the bat of freshman Tristen Edwards, opting unsuccessfully to try and get Simmons out heading to third. With runners at first and third and no outs, senior MJ Knighten put down a successful squeeze bunt that scored Simmons. After initially looking to get Simmons at home, Wonderly made a late attempt to get Knighten at first but threw late to the base. On the late throw, Edwards took third base and on the throw to third, Knighten took second. With runners at second and third, Jablonski helped herself with a two-run single through the right side that gave the Huskers a 3-2 lead.

Illinois came right back to tie the game in the top of the second. Leigh Farina led off with a fly ball to shallow right field. Edwards was in position to make the play but lost the ball in the sun at the last second, as it landed just fair for a triple. Maddi Doane followed with a grounder to short that scored the tying run.

In the bottom of the frame, freshman Alexis Perry and sophomore Bri Cassidy recorded back-to-back singles. The Huskers had runners at second and third with no outs for the top of the order but failed to score.

Neither team got another runner into scoring position until the top of the fifth, when Illinois left the bases loaded following a one-out infield single and back-to-back two-out walks.

Illinois then regained the lead with a two-out unearned run in the top of the sixth inning.

The Fighting Illini added an insurance run in the top of the seventh on a one-out RBI double from Stephanie Abello.

In the bottom of the seventh, Simmons drew a leadoff walk to bring the tying run to the plate but despite a strong swing, Edwards lined into a double play.

The Huskers had their leadoff runner on base in five of their seven innings on Saturday but only scored in one of those innings.

Nebraska and Illinois wrap up their three-game series on Sunday at Noon.